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A Scary Thought

For the past three years, a place of unspeakable evil and horror has opened its doors in Massapequa for the Halloween season; however, it now faces possible banishment at the hands of forces beyond its control.

While the famed “Darkness Rising” charity haunted house, located on Brooklyn Avenue, has frightened and thrilled thousands, it currently faces an uncertain fate; the building that has housed it for the past three years soon faces demolition this coming spring according to attraction creator Frank Baird, a brokerage director and Massapequa resident for the past 33 years.

“The future is a big question mark, because the building is bring torn down,” he said. “We have to get everything out of here, including 8,000 square feet of building material.”

Frank Baird started the concept that would eventually become Darkness Rising years ago, but not for the purposes of evil...he did it simply as a way to help his son out of a social bind in school.

“It started because we wanted Kevin to make more friends, so we offered him to host a Halloween party when he was in fourth grade,” he said. “That started things off...we went from one Halloween party to another. Eventually, we turned out one-car garage into a haunted house, and the kids loved it.”

Kevin is now a college student studying film and video, something that he credits his unusual but fun upbringing to; after all, it’s not every day that a kid gets his own personal haunted house each and every Halloween.

“It was pretty awesome...it was my one chance to be popular in school, so that was cool,” he said. “My parents are really, really great...they’ve been really supportive and awesome over the years, and I appreciate that so much.”

Instilling a love of Halloween in Kevin and attracting more and more participants every year, the Bairds soon escalated their annual creepy household motif, erecting a haunted house comprised of interlinked tents in their backyard. Soon, the attraction moved into the Baird’s abode itself, and its growing success inspired Frank to take their haunted house in an entirely different direction; a chartable one, surprisingly.

“We did some interesting damage to our home...I was hanging wires across our walls to support fake walls we had put up, and we did a lot of painting,” he said. “That year, I can’t even count the number of people who came, but we asked for a donation of three dollars, and we raised just over $500, and we gave that to YES Community Counseling Center of Massapequa.”

Things escalated from there; as the scope of the Baird’s haunted house grew, so did the money they raised for YES, a non-profit group who provides counseling, drug treatment, and social services to residents of southeastern Nassau County. Soon, the attraction, now officially dubbed “Darkness Rising,” was generating thousands of dollars in charitable funds, and it was at that the Bairds decided to take it to the next level.

“Things were just getting too big...we had 2,500 people come through our backyard in 2010, so my wife said ‘enough!’, so we started looking around for a new venue,” she said. “I spoke to the people at YES, and they introduced me to one of the Massapequa Fire Department’s commissioners...we met with him, and the Fire Department was very excited about it.”

The Fire Department offered Baird the use of a 60,000 square foot building on Brooklyn Avenue that is partially used for maintenance purposes; the vast majority of the building is at Baird family’s disposal, and the annual Halloween events held there are entirely staffed by volunteers, both from the public and the Fire Department itself.

The proceeds from Darkness Rising are split between YES and the Heather Pendergast Fund, a charity that benefits terminally ill children of firefighters; last year, despite Superstorm Sandy throwing a wet blanket over the proceedings, Darkness Rising still managed to raise approximately $66,000 for these two great causes.

Kevin Baird has been an active participant in Darkness Rising each and every year, designing and helping to build many of the themed rooms and their props.

“We go for more atmosphere here, because we don’t have the money to pay $100,000 for the props and shove them into a room like a lot of haunted houses do,” he said. “So we take a lot of time to detail the walls and make some stand-out sets...I take a lot of my inspiration from the old Universal monster movies.”

Jim Kennedy of Nesconset runs a lot of the background aspect of the show; according to him, making Darkness Rising work requires approximately 50 miles of cables, wires, tubes, and electronics, and he’s a major force behind making sure everything works to frightening perfection.

Despite the impending demolition of it’s currently location spelling the temporary end of Darkness Rising’s reign of terror over the Massapequas, Frank Baird is actively working hard to resurrect his evil creation once again come next Halloween.

“I’ve been putting feelers out all year long for new possible locations,” he said. “We would like to continue working with these two charities, but if they don’t have a place to house us, there is a distinct possibility that there will be no Darkness Rising next year. We’re doing all we can to make sure that doesn’t happen, however.”

Darkness Rising’s 2013 season continues every weekend until the end of October; to find out more, visit www.darknessrising.org.